More than one in two car-washes is ignoring the rules on employment, mainly by having staff working without declaring their income, or working “in the black” as it is known.
The figures come from a flash inspection carried out by inspectors from the federal finance ministry in 2019, revealed by Philippe De Backer, federal minister in charge of the fight against fraud and reported by the Sudpresse papers.
The inspection in November last year looked at 89 car-washes across the country. In 47 of those cases, or 53%, problems were encountered with the legality of the people working these. In most cases, the person was not signed into the Dimona – the system that allows an employer to notify the authorities the moment someone starts work. Without being signed up, the person employed as well as the employer is avoiding tax and social security.
At the same time, employers were re-arranging work schedules for those employees who were registered, in order to allow them to avoid declaring a certain number of hours – a common ruse not confined to the car-wash business, but also prevalent in the food and drinks sector.
Inspectors also uncovered 27 people registered as unemployed and claiming benefits while also working. Another 46 from the 857 workers checked turned out to be foreigners not in possession of a work permit. They also found three cases of suspected human trafficking.
The sector most affected by this wholesale breach of the rules was those car-washes which offer a hand-detailing service – the more upmarket section of the car-wash industry and also the section that requires more manpower.
Aside from that one spot check, the ministry also carried out 494 other checks on car-wash businesses, and the results were not far different: 41% of businesses were breaking the rules in one way or another.
“This percentage is lower, but the figures include car-washes and garages, and we know that garages are more respecting of the social laws,” commented Bavo De Mol, spokesperson for minister De Backer.
“The results show that we have to continue our fight against social fraud,” De Backer himself said. “We want to help people of good faith to come into line with the rules. But those who deliberately ignore the rules have to go,” he said.